Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2019-11-29/In the media

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You say you want a revolution: Everybody wants to change Wikipedia.


"We all want to change the world"

External video
Revolution 1 (slow version), (4:15)
The Beatles – Revolution (fast version), (3:27)

Everybody wants to change Wikipedia in some way. Our model of knowledge production and distribution depends on it. Be bold! If you see something in the encyclopedia you don't like, change it. Many people want to change the Wikipedia model and use it for purposes other than building an encyclopedia. Good luck to them!

But not all change is good. This month saw examples of people striving to systematically change the content of our encyclopedia, Wikipedians and others trying to tweak the Wikipedia model of many small content contributors and many small financial contributors, and governments trying to dictate what an online encyclopedia should look like.

Baidu Baike offers its editors prizes, experience points, and wealth points in order to incentivize text contributions. Entries are reviewed before publication to filter out "reactionary content", racial and religious provocations, and the promotion of superstitions and cults. Advertisements, porn, fraud and gambling promotion are banned.
Some Chinese editors prefer Wikipedia because of the difference in review processes. According to the SCMP, one editor said "The operation process at Wikipedia is transparent – you can see why entries are published or deleted. At Baidu, the [review] process is in a 'black box'."
Hong Kong editors respond by editing articles on the Hong Kong Police Force, the current protests, and Carrie Lam. Reuters has published an interactive graph that displays the editing activity to show how the Hong Kong Police Force page has changed over time.
Previous coverage in The Signpost: Chinese Wikipedia and the battle against extradition from Hong Kong, The BBC looks at Chinese government editing, Carl Miller on Wikipedia Wars, and Observations from the mainland
  • "You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow": For the third month in a row, the media have announced Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposed Wikipedia replacement as if it were something new. Putin says the Russian language is being attacked by "cave-dwelling Russophobes". He says "It would be better to replace it (Wikipedia) with the Great Russian Encyclopedia in electronic form. At least this would be credible information." If you don't read the stories very closely, you might think that Putin is proposing a new online encyclopedia designed to replace the Russian Wikipedia with neutral and more reliable content, strongly supported by the Russian state budget.

    That would be completely correct except:

If you have a calm and conservative attitude, you might instead conclude, along with Moscow Times contributor Ilya Klishin, that the additional funding is just a way to siphon off state funds to favored individuals. Or, if you have a less trusting attitude, perhaps by reading stories in Euronews and Reporters without Borders, you might conclude that the attacks on Wikipedia could be related to Russia's contingency planning to separate itself from the outside world's internet.
  • "You better free your mind instead": Finding Truth Online Is Hard Enough in The New York Times Magazine is a story on internet censorship in Turkey, of which a ban on Wikipedia is only a part. The entire issue of the magazine is on the future of the internet. Over the last decade the Freedom House's index of Turkey's internet freedom has fallen sharply, following Russia's index level down, but still well above China's. Different countries experience censorship differently and this report emphasizes the quirks and contradictions of Turkey's experience.
  • "You say you got a real solution": The Financial Times (paywalled) reports in Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales launches Twitter and Facebook rival that WT:Social is operating as a social media site, trying to avoid "clickbait", misleading headlines, and the other flaws of Facebook. The site had about 50,000 users as of a few weeks ago, but "obviously the ambition is not 50,000 or 500,000 but 50m and 500m" says Jimmy. Users and wait-listers number about 270,000 as of November 27. The BBC podcast "Tech Tent" interviews Jimmy (starts at 1:35), who says that the site is not optimized for addiction.
  • "You tell me it's the institution": National Library of Wales to Lead on Welsh Wikipedia Project in Business News Wales. The library in Aberystwyth will prepare Welsh-language material from Wikipedia for the 100 most important topics and themes in the school curriculum in Welsh history. Much of the work will be done by Jason Evans, who is the library's National Wikipedian, presumably a promotion from Wikipedian-in-residence.
Meanwhile, folks at the Milner Library at Illinois State University have completed their own revolution by connecting Wikipedia's List of African-American writers to the library catalog records.
Taking it a step further, ISU archivist April Anderson-Zorn and grad student Stephanie Collier document women and minority archivists on Wikipedia, including Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, Brenda Banks, Sara Dunlap Jackson, and Kathleen D. Roe. "It’s really important that we get this information out there; we fight to make sure that all voices are heard," said Anderson-Zorn.
Nobody has started writing about the usual end-of-the-year Wikimedia fundraising campaign yet, not even the WMF, but expect it this month. So whatever type of revolution you want, you can decide on whatever type of contribution you can make. All right? All right.
Readers' comments are requested below in the talk section. How much "social justice activism" is acceptable on Wikipedia? How much governmental or institutional participation? How much revolution? Or should we all park our consciences at the door before editing?

In brief

  • Rise of the bots: Stevens team completes first census of Wikipedia bots: Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology analyze Wikipedia's 1,601 bots and how they interact with human editors. Altogether bots account for about 10 percent of edits. The researchers divide bots into 9 types, including "fixers", "protectors", "connectors", and "advisors". The 1,200 fixer-bots are the most active type, but advisor- and protector-bots are especially important in interacting with human editors.
  • Argentine Wikipedian-in-Residence Mauricio Genta: La Nacion (in Spanish) reports that Genta works at both the Circe library and the National Academy of History. His watchlist includes 1,200 articles. His work in digitization supports not just Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, but also Wikidata, Wikisource, Wikibooks, and Wikivoyage. His personal editing, which began after he attended Wikimania in 2009, focuses on transportation articles.
  • Geschlechterungleichheit!? Oh Nein!: St. Galler Tagblatt writes (in German) on Wikipedia's gender inequality (Geschlechterungleichheit). Women have a hard time on Wikipedia in Switzerland as well as in other countries.
  • Katherine Maher stays on message: As the video suggests, Maher always stays on message.
  • Wikipedia the latest battleground in Lebanon's protests in Arab News. Grievances in Lebanon over perceived government corruption amid an economic crisis have led to a wave of protests which, in addition to triggering the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, have apparently led to some IP vandalism of the article about the Parliament of Lebanon. A user changed a section heading to "Lebanese Robbery", the type from Unicameral to "Unicameral (useless altogether)", and added a comment accusing the members of "contribut[ing] one way or another in keeping the rotten system alive". The edits were quickly reverted before an admin protected the page.
  • An edit war erupts in the Himalayas: After India published a new map of the Kalapani territory, Nepali editors objected. Total edits to the article almost doubled from about 125 to 220 within two weeks. Three maps were added to the article and OpenStreetMaps was linked. The size of the article quadrupled. The article is now semi-protected, but that doesn't seem to be helping.
  • The Most Popular Wikipedia Pages, 2007–2019, an eight minute video, shows how the top 12 most viewed articles changed over 12 years. The bars in the bar graphs dance up and down, as "Barack Obama" rises to the top early on, but is later overtaken by "United States" and inevitably by "Donald Trump". About half the articles listed at any time are about entertainment, mostly singers. "Lil Wayne" was popular early on but fell quickly as "The Beatles" rose, who in turn fell below "Michael Jackson", "Lady Gaga", "Eminem", and "Game of Thrones."
  • Our crowning achievement: The Washington Post follows how ‘The Crown’ has returned, and royal Wikipedia pages are exploding in page views.

Odd bits



Do you want to contribute to "In the media" by writing a story or even just an "in brief" item? Edit next month's edition in the Newsroom. Stories from non-English language media are especially appreciated. Or just leave a tip on the suggestions page.